Three Key Battles – Manchester United

Whenever West Ham United and Manchester United square-off, there is drama.

Tonight, the Hammers host the Red Devils in their first Premier League fixture of 2017, determined to bounce back to winning ways after an undeserved loss at Leicester City on New Year's Eve. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho's side arrive on a run of five straight top-flight victories.

Here, examines a trio of duels that could decide the game.


Ogbonna v Rojo


While they may not make the headlines, the performances of two left-sided defenders will be important to their respective team’s chances at London Stadium

Angelo Ogbonna has settled in as a regular starter alongside Winston Reid – and, when West Ham play five at the back, Cheikhou Kouyate – for Slaven Bilic’s side this season. Strong in the tackle, a decent reader of the game and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Ogbonna is in the right place at the right time more often than not.

Argentina international Marcos Rojo has forced his way into the Manchester United side under Jose Mourinho this season. A tenacious tackler who can also pass the ball accurately, Rojo’s developing partnership with Phil Jones has formed the foundation for the Red Devils’ recent run of form.


Payet v Mkhitaryan


Creativity is the name of the game when it comes to breaking down Premier League defences and, in Dimitri Payet and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, West Ham and Manchester United possess two of the best playmakers in the English game.

Payet continues to impress on a weekly basis, creating more chances – by far – than any other Premier League player this season. Two-footed, strong, elusive and blessed with superb balance, the France star is one who saves his very best for the big games, and this is certainly one of them!

Armenian Mkhitaryan was a fringe figure during his early months at Old Trafford, seemingly unwanted by new manager Mourinho. However, the former Borussia Dortmund man has come into his own in recent weeks, using his outstanding technical ability to open up defences with his through balls, crosses and dribbles.


Carroll v Ibrahimovic


The clash of two titans is one of the most mouth-watering aspects of tonight’s London Stadium showdown.

Andy Carroll’s return to form and fitness has played a massive part in West Ham’s recent resurgence, with the No9’s aerial strength helping his side at both ends of the pitch. Nobody is better in the air in the Premier League than the Hammers’ talisman, and that’s a statistical fact.

Everybody knows how Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to play this evening, but seemingly nobody knows how to stop him! The Swede is a huge presence up front for Manchester United, with opposition players appearing to bounce off him when in possession, a rocket of a shot in his left foot and passing and awareness of those around him that are both arguably underrated.